Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reflections on the last month in the NICU

Hello, from the NICU!

We've been spending our days (and nights) at Kaiser for a little over a month now -- time flies and crawls. I can't believe we're a month into this - mostly, because I can't believe I've already used a month of my leave. But, at the same time, it feels so much longer -- it seems like this has been going on for years and it will never end. No one should have to spend a month (or more) in the NICU.

The NICU is an almost impossible place to get to know your baby. You're basically tethered to the bed, surrounded by other babies and worried parents and beeping monitors. You're there for an hour or two at a strecth -- trying to feed your baby as many calories as possible as quickly as possible before getting her back to her isolette so she can sleep again for a long stretch, all in the hopes of her gaining another ounce. We're obsessed with her numbers - heartrate, respiration, saturation, red blood cell count, weight, jaundice, etc. We're constantly pressed for time -- making mad dashes to the hospital so that we can feed her and then mad dashes back to the house so that we can try to do something productive at the house to prepare for Kai's homecoming. It sucks, quite frankly. It's not how you want to spend your child's first month of life.

With all that said -- Kai is really doing great and has been incredibly strong this whole month. In the last week, she really mastered breast and bottle feeding (I am still pumping all the time -- every three hours, including after every breastfeeding session... it is easier for her to get the necessary calories from the bottle, so I only breastfeed every other feeding. Again, not what I had planned - but, it is working for her...) and has been steadily gaining weight all week. This morning she weighed 4lbs, 11 oz. As an aside, I've noticed over the last month that people seem completely fascinated by small babies -- as though the tininess is so incredibly adorable and precious (I'm sure I'll notice this even more when we finally have her home and are taking her out in the world). I have to say, the fascination is quite annoying given that we spend every day hoping that she just gains weight and gets BIGGER. Her smallness is something we're trying to overcome - not relish in. But, luckily, she is getting bigger - she may even be 5 lbs by the time she comes home.

In terms of her homecoming, we are really just waiting for her to quit having so many bradys. The doctors are not too concerned about the bradys that she has while eating, as long as she doesn't have too many and as long as they are self-resolving. For most of last week, all of her bradys were feeding bradys and were self-resolving -- so the docs started talking about sending her home on Monday (the 19th). But, yesterday she had one that required a bit of stimulation, so the docs want to keep her in the NICU for a little longer. Hopefully she'll come home this week - but, nothing is every certain in the NICU.

I can't wait to be done with the NICU -- but I also don't want to leave too soon. We want to make sure that Kai is really OK and that she will be successful once she comes home. I feel like I have such an odd relationship with the NICU -- I mostly hate it. I hate the constant "loop" that has taken over our lives - running between the hospital and the remodel project (and, for Eric, the office). But, at the same time, I love the NICU because it's comforting. I know she has good care and the monitors are reassuring -- they'll catch problems and let us know exactly how she is doing second by second. Once we come home, it's just us. And, given that the monitors still go off with some frequency -- it's a bit unnerving to think about going at it without them providing us back up. So, we keep at it -- doing the loop and waiting for the day when she is big and strong enough to come home. Eric is doing a good job of juggling the chaos that our lives have become. I am not as on top of things -- although, I am improving by the day. I have to keep reminding myself that it's only been a month -- I feel like I've been out of it for so much longer.

Last week - I had my follow up doctor appointments. Both of them were scheduled as pre-natal appointments, which was funny (sort of). The receptionist, both times, asked - "how many weeks are you?" and I responded "I'm not pregnant anymore, this is a post-partum appointment." Both times I got the once over and a skeptical look -- I guess my belly hasn't yet shrunk enough yet to be able to convincingly state that I am not pregnant. Also, I don't know why they scheduled two appointments for me in the same week. At the first, they just checked my blood pressure. I had been doing this every day at home and calling in the numbers to Kaiser -- so it seemed like a total waste of time to go to the doctor's office and have them use the same machine to record the same numbers I had been calling in for two weeks. But, whatever. The other appointment was with my OB - but was really just a check-in. I have my official post-partum appointment with her this week. The good news from these appointments is that my blood pressure has normalized - and they took me off the meds.

OK - that is a long enough ramble. Here are some more pictures:

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